Friday, May 30, 2008

Tart of the Week: Lady Worsley

Not only did Lady Worsley have great taste in shoes, she also knew who to take fashion tips from. She was clever enough to have Reynolds paint her in the trend the Duchess of Devonshire invented; a riding habit in the style of her husband's regiment colors. Because this scandalous lady conveniently immortalized herself in this bold fashion statement we now have a perfect image of what the dress looked like.

But enough of that flattery, let's move on to the dirt. Not much is actually known of Lady Worsley, but much is rumored of her. Dorothy Seymour (or Seymour Dorothy I've seen as well*) was flirtatious and vivacious and rumors surfaced that she had no less than 27 lovers. She also became close friends with our former tart, Grace Dalrymple Elliot. Her biggest scandal derived from her stay with her husband, Sir Richard at the Coxheath military camps. The same place the fashion she graces in her Reynolds portrait began. While she was bathing one night, her husband tapped on the door and informed her he was going to hoist a Captain Bissett up to the window to look at her naked. Yet, Sir Richard acted shocked an insulted when he found out Bissett had met up with Lady Worsley for a week and "carnally knew her" in those nights. He had also bet Lord Deerhurst that he wouldn't be able to sleep with her. Well, money should have been put down on that bet because Sir Richard came home at 4am one night to find Deerhurst leaving Lady Worsley's chambers (I have feeling Richard wasn't that interested in women as he was money, wink wink). A trial against Bissett promptly followed. Seeing as the dim-witted Sir Richard had basically prostituted his wife, he was awarded a shameful 1 shilling for damages.

London society erupted with the story, satirical prints were in abundance, and the transcript for the trial was so popular it ran 7 printings in the first year of publication. Here is a juicy tidbit:
Q. Do you remember whether Sir Richard Worsley had an opportunity at any time of observing the intimacy and attention your Lordship paid to Lady Worsley ? And your Lordship will mention the particular time. — He found me in her dressing room, adjacent to her bedchamber, at four o'clock in the morning.
Q. How was Lady Worsley dressed at that time ? — I don't particularly recollect.

Q. In a dress, or undress ? — I don't remember; I made no observation upon it. Sir Richard expressed his astonishment at finding me there at that hour.
Q. Do you recollect his expression ? — He said "Deerhurst! How came you here?" And after that I went to my bed-room.
Q. How long did your Lordship continue there, after that ? — To the best of my recollection, three or four days afterwards.
Q. Do you recollect whether, after that, you were permitted to attend Lady Worsley out upon parties ? — I was.

A divorce swiftly followed, leaving the former Lady Worsley to carnally do as she pleased. It also left her with an STD from the Marquis of Graham. Oh Seymour, I thought everyone knew not to sleep with that peer!

*Since I've written this I have been in contact with Lady Worsley's biographer, Hayley Rubenhold, who has informed me that her name was most definitely Seymour.

6/11/08- Also check out the book review for Lady Worsley's Whim

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Moment with Greuze

Jean-Honore Greuze, The Broken Mirror and The Inconsolable Widow

like putting these two images as a duo. I feel as if Greuze is giving direction as to the right and wrong sense of female grief. In comparison we have two women in white accompanied by their faithful dogs. In the first we know that the lady's grief stems from lost virtue due to the spilt eggs and broken mirror. Her lapdog abrasively circles the mirror on the floor. The second shows a woman distraught over the loss of her husband. She is disheveled, just like the first lady. Unlike the first lady she appears, in her grief to have barely pulled herself together to dress herself, whereas the other is disheveled from, well, her bad choices for the evening. The widow's dog-companion sleeps peacefully during his mistresses grief. His peace confirms the fidelities of his mistress to her late husband.

Chenilles et Papillons


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


"I will go to London, [there] go in to every excess of vice, [until] I [die] a miserable, broken hearted wretch & leave my fate as a warning to young [women] never to be [too] good..."

-Emma Hamilton in a letter to Charles Greville

Wedding Blues

I've been overdosed on weddings lately due to my friend, Katie's, recent engagement. Lauren and I threw an engagement party over the weekend for her which went really well. In between, we've been watching awful wedding shows (since we're bridesmaids who have no clue about this sort of thing) and gossiping throughout. Since a wedding is a perfect excuse to get an 18th century gown made, I'd like to propose to her that she post some of her top wedding dress suggestions. Seeing as I probably will never marry it's likely I'll just get one of these gowns made so I can prance around my apartment listening to string quartets. And yes this site is full of James St James references since he is straight out of the 18th century. My selections are as follows:

First of all, I need to advertise this amazing site for wedding dresses, It's a feast for the eyeballs.

Reynolds first portrait of her most divine Grace

Reynolds of the Countess of Harrington, 1775

Gainsborough, Mary, Lady Bate-Dudley, 1787

Vigee-Lebrun, Portrait of Madame Grand, 1783

Fragonard, The Progress of Love: Reverie, 1790-1791

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gossip: Hysterics

Hysterics is a hot topic with Lauren and I lately. Not only is it a great example of my personality in the last few weeks but something used to describe a female condition usually accompanied by "fits." I was telling her about a detailed account of Elizabeth Chudleigh's hysterics, of which the woman seemed to have mastered like an art form. She has a great post about them here.

me: I'm so sick of being upset
Lauren: what happened?
me: nothing
it's just driving me crazy
all these "emotions"
Lauren: hysterics. you need a snuff box

Tart of the Week: Elizabeth Farren

Hot! Elizabeth Farren was an Irish actress of humble origins. She excelled at her art and was even dubbed The Queen of Comedy by Horace Walpole, the social authority of the time. Given that Elizabeth was the starlet of Drury Lane Theater, the title was probably not flattery. She excelled at playing aristocratic ladies, even portraying Lady Teazle in Sheridan's School of Scandal, a part based upon The Duchess of Devonshire.

It was likely these parts that got Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby's attention. The earl fell in love with Elizabeth, despite the fact that his wife, Elizabeth Hamilton, was still very much alive. The secret affair was once again very public in satirical prints and therefore a widely followed affair. When Lady Derby died, the earl wasted no time making Elizabeth his wife (and the new Lady Derby). They were married two months after his first wife's death. The couple continued to be ridiculed in satires with Elizabeth portrayed as as the tall and skinny gold-digger and the earl as short and squatty. They amused and inspired satirical artists throughout the rest of their marriage. A typical celebrity union.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gossip from France: Charlotte Corday

Without getting into too much detail, because this is another post with babble-potential, I'd like to touch upon the imagery of Charlotte Corday, who definiately wins the prize for "Most Spartan" Frenchwoman. But I'd like to look at it from the English perspective. To review, Charlotte was the broad who took matters into her own hand when the executions in the French Revolution became too numerous. Placing blame on Jean-Paul Marat for the out of control killing sprees, Charlotte assassinated Marat with a butter knife in his bathtub. Well, maybe not a butter knife, but she she did buy a kitchen knife right beforehand to do the job. She was of course punished with the original execution of death by guillotine.

This of course this made her a martyr. The French despised her for her actions. A man even lifted her freshly severed head from the guillotine basket to slap her cheek. The English, on the other hand, idolized the murderess. As can be seen in this Gillray print, Corday is one of the few women to be portrayed in a positive light by the satirical artist. Her depiction is very similar to those of Britannia, a rare compliment for those not of English origin. Don't you just love how in this depiction Charlotte address the assembly as "Wretches," plus I doubt Gillray ever put so much time into making a hairdo look nice as he did with this print. It should also be noted how incredibly un-French Charlotte looks, she looks more hmm...British? Her depiction is notably in the British vogue.

The British, who have a tradition of enjoying a good rebellion (unless it was against them) felt France crossed the line with the execution of Louis XVI. Charlotte became, for them, a symbol of liberty; the exact thing France was fighting for. The French disagreed with this viewpoint, and felt it was Marat, the guy who died taking a bubble bath, who was the true martyr.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


"The world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those who feel.

-Horace Walpole

Monday, May 19, 2008

Initial Barrage for The Duchess

I've been putting off voicing my initial opinions on The Duchess for a while because I'm afraid it will come out in the form of babbling...which may just happen! So be prepared.

First of all, I was ECSTATIC to find out they were making a movie based on Amanda Foreman's biography. When you read the book you wonder why it hasn't been made into a Hollywood-caliber movie because Georgiana's life was just so amazing and dramatic that it has box-office potential. I even tried to convince a friend to make it into a screen play, which didn't work. I already had in my mind who would be perfect for the role of the illustrious duchess, namely Kelly Reilly because she could get the Cavendish Drawl down and Rosamund Pike because she looks similar and is a good actor.

When I found out this summer that it was, in fact, going to be those two ladies' former costar, Keira Knightly I had mixed feelings. Knightly can act, yes, but personally I'm not too fond of her. Plus, Joe Wright (the director)* needs to stop casting her in EVERY movie he directs, it's unattractive. I'm afraid that since this is his third movie in a row with her as the lead it will finally be the movie that fails because the audience will want a little variety. Also, Keira is just wayyy too young to be able to portray the variety of emotions for the complex role. Not to mention Georgiana and Keira look nothing like each other (seriously the girl is boney and needs to eat in order to look remotely 18th century). I'm seriously worried about her ruining the portrayal. The good part of having her in the role is that it means the movie won't be tossed off as a B-movie, and will hopefully get the attention it deserves.

I'm gonna stop there for now and commence with production stills, huzah!

Well at least they charcoaled her eyebrows

Love that dress!! Oh wait, that's because it's an authentic Georgiana design

Filming in Bath

Link to some sniped images

*Since I wrote this in May 2008 I should note that at the time I was not aware that the director is actually Saul Dibb

Friday, May 16, 2008

A hat for every gown

I don't know where this site was when I was looking for 18th century straw hats to garnish in the appropriate manner. But here it is now, with every colonial style a gal could need. They even supply millinery wire.
All I did was a google image search...oh hindsight.

Tart of the Week: Mary "Perdita" Robinson

The actress, poet and author known as Perdita in her celebrity life was born Mary Darby and at the tender age of 16 she married Tom Robinson, the bastard child of some rich guy. What Mary is most known for was her very public secret affair with the Prince of Wales as well as her acting career. Both, despite her celebrity from them, were actually very brief. She was prince's first big love, and he would write her impassioned love letters (which he signed Florizel and addressed to Perdita based on the play he was introduced to her in) which she blackmailed him with later when she needed some cash. When the teenage prince grew bored of their very public affair, he promptly replaced her with Grace Dalrymple Elliot, a rival tart.
A Correspondent says that Dally the Tall gave a superb fete last night at her house near Tyburn Turnpike, in consequence of the Perdita's departure for the Continent, whose superior charms have long been the daily subject of Dally's envy and abuse."
-The Morning Herald 19 Oct. 1781
Mary was not only a foe of the other tricks of the town, she also rivaled the Duchess of Devonshire in her ability to start new fashion trends.

The second half of her life was extremely opposite to the extravagance of the first half. She was permanently separated from her super lame husband (believe me, SUPER lame) and devoted her life to her writings. She became paralyzed from the waist down in an impassioned act of love for the true love of her life, the super dreamy Banastre Tarleton. Their relationship lasted many years before his family (who hated Mary) finally got him to marry some teenager, leaving Mary a bitter, bitter (already feminist) author. She was very devoted to her art, and hung out with only the coolest authors such as uber-cool chick, Mary Wollstoncraft. However, she will eternally be remembered as Perdita, the dame who robbed the sweet prince of his virginity....probably.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Duchess: Teaser

My last post reminded me that I should probably begin the Gossip Guide fanfare for the upcoming biopic on the Duchess of Devonshire based on Amanda Foreman's most excellent book, The Duchess. I won't get on a barrage yet about it. I'll just give you the trailer for you to judge yourself.

The Picture Hat

One of Georgiana's numerous fashion achievements was her invention and popularization of what was known at the time as The Picture Hat. When she sat for Gainsborough in 1783, Georgiana wore this heavenly haberdashery which she had designed herself and after the was painting exhibited at the Royal Academy the hat became all the rage. Numerous women went straight to their milliners requesting "the picture hat" that they has seen at the Royal Academy. Whether they actually liked the oversized feathered and ribboned black hat, or were only imitating the fashionably elite is not known. But this hat resurfaced in the following century among Victorian women now called the "Gainsborough Hat".

Lauren and I are making a gallant effort to recreate our favorite 18th century hats as best we can. Under completion they will be unveiled at hat day at the Saratoga Racetrack. Whenever that is. Some bloggers have successfully been able to recreate this hat. Given my limited experience in the dangerous life of haberdashery, this could turn out to be very interesting. Below are some pictures I've found of this fabulous hat.

circa 1909

From the upcoming film The Duchess which I have yet to obsess upon in the blog. Notice the skull-like quality to Kiera's face, so 18th century

Monday, May 12, 2008

Second Life

Lauren and I were talking Friday and she brought up Second Life. I had no idea what she was talking about. She explained that it was a free online video game that is similar to my all-time favorite, The Sims. You create a character and have them earn money to buy a house. People, she explained, have made millions by selling these house, furniture creations etc and converting their "Lindens" (Second Life money) into real money. So of course we both had to try it out. I ended up with Georgiana Brim, she ended up with Marie Gerje (since this was not planned, we obviously have 18th Century obsession issues).
This is what we came up with:

That would be Lauren in the green on the right, some Marquise in green on the left, and of course, LouisCharles, "Le Dauphin" in the Bourbon blue stockings. Yes somehow, we managed to find Versailles, get some cool swag, and now all I want is 162 more "lindens" so I can afford a nice wig.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Review: The Lady and The Duke

In tribute to the tart of the week, here's a review about the only movie (that I know of) about her. The Lady and the Duke follows Grace Dalrymple's experience in the French Revolution and her friendship with the Duc d'Orleans. The unique aspect of the movie is in the sets which are watercolor paintings. It gives the paintings a classic feel but not as successfully due to the green-screen effect.

Pluses: I liked the costumes, I'll try to post some if I can find them. I also appreciated that the movie did not stray far from the truth.
Minuses: Every interaction with the Duke just about put me to sleep. He was not only boring but not much of an actor. Also, over-all Grace's experiences were of Hollywood caliber and excitement and there was only a Masterpiece Theater budget for this film.

Here's the trailer, thank you very much imdb, my internet necessity:


Robe a la Reine

Tart of the Week

As some blogs tend to do, The Gossip Guide will begin to feature some weekly hotness. Although these sexy ladiez have been in the ground a couple of centuries, that doesn't mean they don't deserve their place to be ogled in the blog sphere. The tart who receives the first honor of this position is one close to my heart.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott

Yeah, I know, at first glance she looks kind of like your grandma; but once you get past the interesting shade of powder and the charcoaled eyebrows, Grace was like a supermodel, or at least tall enough to be one. During the height of her celebrity she was known as Dally the Tall. Unlike most supermodels today, she was not crazy and a smart cookie. She was a child bride of this fat ugly doctor in London who divorced her after, it is alleged, he caught her sleeping with a hot rake. Meow! She went on to have affairs with The Prince of Wales (who hadn't really) and the Duke d'Orleans among others. She spent most of her life in France and gave us some of the most reputable accounts of the French Revolution which she saw first-hand. Grace narrowly escaped the guillotine after months in French prisons, even having her hair sheared off in preparation. Although she was arrested just to be arrested, she was a firm royalist and had helped Marie Antoinette with correspondence during the Revolution and may have even met the future Empress Josephine during her imprisonment. So obviously she also had strong connections with other hot tarts! Plus you kind of have to like her just based on the fact that she wore low cut gowns for her formal portraits.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cool Paintings that Make me Sad Because They No Longer Exist

Joshua Reynolds, Douglas, 8th Duke Hamilton, and Elizabeth, Duchess of Hamilton 1779

This could very well be my favorite Reynolds painting if it were not for the fact that it really does not exist any more. Tragic is really an understatement in describe this loss, as you can probably judge from this last remaining image of the work. There is a real tenderness between the young couple that which many Enlightenment artists strove to show in their work, but their efforts are dwarfed by this example. The content look of the couple, merged with the simple display of affection the Duchess shows by holding her husband's collar in her gloved hand is touching.

The Duke of Hamilton fell in love with Elizabeth Anne Burrell and married her a year before this painting was finished. Unfortunately, his mother disapproved of the match which ultimately led to their divorce. Hamilton died without an heir in 1799.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Devonshire Amusement

To unveil this new blog, which is always an awkward and difficult thing to do anyway, I decided to use an icebreaker in terms of introduction. And by introduction I not only mean to the blog world but also to the person whose name adorns this page and is therefore worshiped by myself: Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

The above image is one of my favorite depictions of her Grace. It is a satirical image from 1784, which happened to be a very big year in the Duchess' life. Not only did she have her first child after years of painful miscarriages, but she also became notorious for her part in the 1784 Westminster elections. In fact, this seemed to be the thing she became the most known for, besides of course being a leader of fashion. She became the first woman to canvass for a political leader, hers being Charles James Fox. The image shows Georgiana on the left brandishing a staff with the head of Fox on it, identifiable by the fox tails. She holds in her other hand an image of the Prince of Wales, another Whig figurehead. In the right panel we see her cuckolded husband tending to their child.

Of course the image is meant to me more insulting to the Duke, who could probably cared less about his public image. Although it's meant to be equally insulting to the Duchess of Devonshire, I think it fails in this. From an 18th century viewpoint we see a lady out of control, and therefore whose sexuality is out of control as well. From a contemporary standpoint we see an awesome image of feminine power and liberty.

As an introduction to Georgiana, we have a perfect first impression. This nonchalant image captures what the stuffy portraits cannot portray, a personality that stands out in a sea of powdered coiffures.